Aaron Zahra, a member of Prime Minister Robert Abela’s secretariat who also assisted him in his personal Labour Party leadership campaign, has been awarded a second government job as Festivals Malta chairman.
Zahra, a friend of the Prime Minister and his wife, had been recruited to the newly-created role of Head of Events at the Office of the Prime Minister as soon as Robert Abela assumed power in 2020.
In that role, he accompanies the Prime Minister to events and organises press conferences and other public functions. With his new second position at Festivals Malta, he will be adding over €11,000 a year to his already generous government income of some €50,000.
But in a total blurring of the lines, Zahra is also giving his services to the Labour Party since he accompanies the Prime Minister to partisan political activities and promotes Robert Abela’s political events, which he attends in his capacity as Labour Party leader, on his social media pages despite being a government official.
Through the new position, Zahra is also constantly dealing with events suppliers – the very same ones that supply the Office of the Prime Minister with events logistics as well as the Labour Party with services for its mass events, in particular during election campaigns.
Among these are TEC, Nexos, Besteam Audio, Ican and others who have been given millions of euros in direct orders from the OPM in recent years. The same companies also supply the Labour Party with services, either free of charge or at heavily discounted prices.
With this latest appointment, the Prime Minister has also managed to replace former Festivals Malta chairman Norman Hamilton, a Labour stalwart who was very close to disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat.
While almost all central government appointments are being made through the OPM, with ministers only being tasked with signing off on them, Abela also changed the rulebook to be able to significantly increase the staff complement within his own secretariat.
Following the general elections held in March, Abela’s OPM staff, almost all employed on a position of trust basis, increased to 71 staff.